The book jacket’s depiction of a Leonardo da Vinci–esque creature transporting a child across an emerald sky signals a highly original approach to a pitch for a pet.
Sporting a scarlet bowler hat, the cylindrically shaped girl describes her requirements: cuddly but strong; adept at flying and swimming; capable of shrinking and growing on demand. The dialogue indicates that she is talking with her parents. They may be offstage, but it is also possible that what seems to be the monster/pet on the facing page (and elsewhere) is a dreamy composite of the parents—a provocative ambiguity. Soon after Rikki crawls into bed, a voice invites her to play hide-and-seek. The ensuing nocturnal adventure involves the rhinoceroslike creature’s fulfillment of her wishes. Composed of a patchwork of foil and saturated colors (especially red and green) and replete with a tusk, wings, and stylish shoes, the monster continuously morphs, expanding at the climax to escape a spiky sea ogre. While the textured scenes are mysterious and quirky, and the protagonist is anxious at times, the award-winning, Czech-born collaborators balance tension with joy: “Rikki’s heart beats faster, full of excitement.” Girl and pet have fully bonded by the conclusion, when the child asks the monster to stay “please, and always protect me.”
This title feeds and calms listeners’ imaginations in the most delightful way. (Picture book.4-6)